Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Why I love eBooks

Armed with a good eReader that have weeks of battery life and a nice chunk of internal memory, it is possible to load thousands of books on this light-weight device and have your own library wherever you choose to go for the holidays. Admittedly there are a few disadvantages when compared with the traditional printed book. It doesn't feel or smell like a real book and you probably won't be able to swat an intruding insect with it. If you are struggling to get the fire going or there is a pressing bodily emergency, the blank pages can't be used to stroke the fire or any other personal needs. Therefore with a wife that is good at making fires and a little bit of planning, you might never need a conventional printed book again. Anyway after six weeks you grow to like the feel and smell of your eReader as much as most other books, especially if you look at the convenience and the amount of money that you save.

Just being able to pack a library with thousands of your favourite books in your carry-on luggage is a huge advantage. With a bit of planning you can have hundreds of books in each of your favourite categories to choose from. At last the luxury of choice for the "financially challanged". Whatever your mood, you are sure to have a book to tickle your fancy. If you are close enough to civilization to have some internet access, you can search for even more titles or authors to choose from. Just over a hundred years ago my great-grandparents had only three books to choose from: The Bible, Psalm-book and a school-book called "Trap der Jeugt", all written in Dutch because my language (Afrikaans) was still developing to become one. Look at our choices now.

The prices of eBooks are so cheap that one can easily afford to download this customized library at a fraction of the cost of its printed equivalent. Most of these books allow you to read a substantial percentage of the book for free, in the comfort of your own space, and then make the decision to buy or not. Many of the new indie authors give away their books for free in order to be read and those with a deeper back-list make one of the books free to connect with new readers. Therefore if you are on a tight budget, just be a little more adventurous and sample some of the thousands of new titles that are offered for free or greatly discounted.

Search capabilities make it so much easier to search for books that might interest you specifically. On the Smashwords site, where they boast that they have published 3,721 million words already, you find some handy filters at the top: Free ebooks , Best Sellers , New Releases etc etc. There is also a "search block" where you can type in what you are interested in. The first time I typed "Afrikaans" (the language that I speak) into the block only two titles came up Marionette Meester , and my mother's book: Gees van die Labrador. When I did the same now, twenty titles came up of books written in Afrikaans. I love history, especially "Ancient African History" but when I type that in, it gives me six titles of which only two are of interest to me. In that case it could be better to relax the search to only "African History" and then search through all 86 different books for the ones that interest me.

Talking about "search", how often does it happen to you that you look for specific words or phrases. This is almost impossible to do in traditional books unless you have a photographic memory, yet in eBooks it is again as easy as typing in what you are looking for and hitting the enter button. Imagine paging through the Bible and looking for the word "giant", this could take a long time and in the end you can still not be sure that you didn't perhaps miss an occurrence of the word somewhere. With my eBible, I just typed in "giant" and seconds later it lists all the occurrences of "giant" in all the books of the Bible. What is more it also makes you aware of any other words that contain "giant" as part of the word like giants.

Isn't this fantastic! The luxury of your own customized library in a light-weight mobile device at an affordable price? Add to this the convenience of search technology and you start feeling like a wizard of the electronic realm with the words and knowledge of the ages at your fingertips. Keep on dreaming.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Wish List

The end of any phase tend to do one of two things to people: If your are more sentimentally inclined you look back over that period of time and reminisce about the things that happened. The more go-orientated types look to the future and ask “what is next”.

At the end of a year as activities wind down, those extra hours of time seem to magnify this situation. For example while I am writing here, thinking about the future my wife is paging through pictures of our children when they were kids. I am sure it is a good thing to take a look where we come from because it gives us some direction of where we want to go in the future. For me, however it is not much more than a glance over the shoulder. Is it wrong to dig in the past and relive every detail of what happened yesterday and the day before? No, of course there is no wrong or right here. Each one of us do what we need to do.

There are days that I dig in the past. To be honest many days I dig in the distant past, hundreds of years before I was born – but this is not a direct emotional need that I have, it is part of the research that I am doing for my book. If you work as a historian, then that is what you do and you dig in other peoples past. This is like doing it as a hobby, in other words as a form of entertainment. Not surprising that I enjoy watching the History Channel in stead of the latest football match. Professional historians on the other hand might get home after a tough day at the museum and enjoy a game of football to unwind. What I am trying to say is that this kind of digging in other peoples past is different and might not have anything to do with your own emotions about past events.

A final thought about digging into your own history is also a cautionary note. Do just enough digging to satisfy your own needs. It could become a bit of a twilight zone where some sad events can take on a life of its own and you could find yourself being drawn deeper into the shadows of your own mind. Try and be realistic about those emotions, don't let them drag you down and if your soul starts feeling heavy in your chest, it is time for a break. Watch out for the dark spiral that pulls you down and makes it more and more difficult to escape. If you feel this spiral is pulling you down, call “time out”, move back to the sunshine and find some people to talk to. Some loners like me might need to take a walk in nature just to be amazed by this wonderful world that we live in.

I have been accused of taking too many “happy pills”. But the lady accusing me was wearing a badge that said: “You can't piss me off, I am on Prozac.”  It is all about perspective, the angle or lens that we use to look at things. My outlook might border on the rosy and sunny side of life but that is how I like it. I am one of those lucky ones that actually had a wonderful life so far. My childhood was fantastic and sorry for my siblings, I happened to be my parents favourite on top of it. Why do I get these funny looks when I say that I enjoyed school and actually did my school work? Is it so unusual to have a stunning job and to enjoy getting up in the morning to go to work?

How about an enjoyable retirement? That is what I am looking at now. Imagine being able to do what your hobby is – I like exploring, history, the countryside, books, photography and writing. I will just need something to distract my wife and give me the chance to do all of these things. Maybe she can continue working and I can take early retirement? Either way it sounds very promising to me. Just the excitement of learning all these new skills make me want to giggle. Sorry, those happy pills affecting me again. While some people are counting down the days to the end of the Mayan Calendar, I am looking to an exciting future of combining all my favourite pass-times into a retirement hobby.

Any change brings some uncertainty and a little doubt. To help me through this transition I am going to employ another of my magic tricks: Putting up a wish-list to guide my thoughts and lubricate my dreams. This is no big deal, just a few thoughts scribbled on a piece of the proverbial paper that I can cast out into the world and connect with the energy grid of the universe. By setting up this path back to the basis of my dream, like-minded energy will flow towards me and energise these wishes to grow. As they grow more energy will be channelled towards them allowing the more viable wishes to grow faster than the others and taking me into the right direction for my retirement. The growth of this energy grid comes with another advantage, it draws the right people to cross your path at the right time to help you achieve the right things when you need it. If this sounds too hocus-pocus and New-Age for you, just try it on a simple wish and see what happens. After all, what do you have to loose by making a wish like that?

These are my silly little wishes for 2012:

To love and respect everybody that comes in contact with me.
To live and make the most of every day.
To write from the heart in the simplest possible language.
To help others publish their work.
To honestly record the stories that come to me.
To listen to the voices from the past.
To ask for the information that I need.
To share these stories with everyone that wants to listen.

May all your wishes come true in 2012.